Whether one is considering back file conversion of older paper documents to digital formats, or day forward conversion for newly created ones, there are various considerations to take into account when choosing a document imaging company.
The first thing to look at is the types of documents that need digitized, which may call for a specialized imaging solution. For example, in the case of large or oversized documents, the main consideration then would be that the imaging company has the scanning equipment to handle the imaging of these types of documents. Another special case would be converting microfilm to file formats that can then be accessed by a computer. In most cases, historical documents are letter/legal size and stored either on or off site in bankers boxes and filing cabinets. Regardless of the type of paper storage medium, the following is a list of features to look for when choosing a document imaging company.
Features of the Best Document Imaging Companies
- Back file and/or day forward conversion – back file scanning is the conversion of older documents. Some organizations have thousands of documents sitting in boxes and cabinets that they would like converted to electronic format(s). In this case, look for an imaging company that has high-speed scanning equipment as they can accommodate any volume of documents and at lower costs. In addition, look for flexibility on the part of the imaging company so that you can choose how many documents are converted and when – to fit your budgetary and functional needs. An organization may find it most convenient, in the case of a larger volume of documents, to have portions of them scanned as needed. This is not only for budgetary considerations but to integrate the new digital documents in a way as to not disrupt current business processes.
- Day forward scanning involves the imaging of records as they are created – from today and onwards. Not all organizations need this service as they may have the human and technical resources to handle their own day to day digitizing of paper documents. In the case where they do not or it is just more cost efficient to send the work out to be processed, look for an imaging company that provides day forward scanning.
- Professional scanning services – look for a company that has not only the experience in years of providing imaging services, but the expertise and equipment to handle any job. Ask them what kind of document/file types their equipment can scan, the quality of the images, character recognition technologies – OCR/ICR/OMR, and if color is an option. The best document imaging companies will offer the widest range of options as this in itself is a testament to their expertise. The leading services will have been in business for many years providing imaging services.
- Indexing option – indexing of the images provides for easy search and retrieval capability later. If you need indexing of the data, be sure to choose an imaging company that will provide you with this option and the ability to put the data into the electronic formats your business needs (PDF, Excel, and so on). In addition, ask about their workforce – the size for example. Indexing involves data entry. Anyone can type, but an imaging company that has a sizeable portion of their workforce dedicated solely to this task means that indexed data will be accurate and your complete conversion project (imaging and indexing) will be done quicker and in a more efficient manner (less cost).
- Location – a good imaging company will offer pickup and drop off of your documents. The feature is incorporated into the imaging rate, but is not unlimited. Transport of documents back and forth over long distances can add to the expense so it is important to inquire as to what are the limits to this for cost purposes. Unless your organization is located in the same town, ask what the imaging company’s usual service area is.
- Location also comes into play in terms of the workforce that will be interacting with your documents. If you have sensitive data and/or regulatory requirements that affect how it must handled, you will want to be certain it does not travel out of your country. There are imaging providers in the United States that have offices here but much of their processes are done overseas. Indexing, for example, is a popular feature of imaging work that gets off shored. So ask the imaging company you are considering; where is the workforce that will be doing your job located?
- Costs – obvious on the surface but, as noted before, be certain to inquire about all of them involved in your imaging project. This includes transportation of the documents, any prep work that needs done to the documents for scanning, indexing if not included in the imaging rate, and document destruction if needed. In addition, go a step further and ask for an ROI estimate from the imaging company. A good imaging company that meets the criteria as listed here, will have no problem providing this at no cost or obligation to you. Your organization may already sense the cost savings involved in ridding themselves of so much paper, along with the functional benefits that come from working with electronic formats. What is not obvious though is a good, clear estimate of those costs on an annual basis vs. the cost of purchasing an imaging solution. When will it pay for itself? Having this information will not only let you know when you can expect to go green in your conversion transition, but will help you plan the imaging project itself in a manner that fits your budget.
These are the primary features to look for in choosing the best from the document imaging companies available. A good one not only serves as a scanning provider, but also as a specialist that can consult with you all along the way in your transition from paper to an electronic solution.